A Classy Blowout: Bowl-Bound Tar Heels Coming Together, Having Fun

CHAPEL HILL– The Tar Heel football team had a record-breaking day in Chapel Hill Saturday. Carolina set a school record in points scored and yards gained in its 80-20 rout of Old Dominion that gave UNC its sixth win of the season, clawing its way back to bowl eligibility.

Head Coach Larry Fedora says he is proud of his team’s turnaround on the five-game winning streak.

“I’m proud of this football team for what we’ve accomplished, especially the way these guys have hung together and kept working hard and believing in each other. We’re happy to get a win at home in front of our fans and our students. We’re looking forward to the next one,” Coach Fedora says.

In a rare situation, the fourth quarter was reduced from 15 to 10 minutes by mutual agreement between the two teams. Coach Fedora says he wanted to get off the field and win with class.

“Bobby asked the head official if we could shorten the game there. I was all for it. We wanted to get off the field. We were about winning with class and not trying to embarrass anybody. We just wanted to get that game done,” Coach Fedora says.

The UNC offense racked up a remarkable 721 yards of total offense Saturday. Coach Fedora says his team is getting better each and every week.

“We’ve got better each and every week. As you look at our team, we’ve got a little bit better each week. We’re playing our best football at this time of the year. It’s exciting. As the head coach, you watch how the team has progressed and how these young guys have progressed and how this team has grown closer together,” Coach Fedora says.

The momentum of the youth movement is undeniable for the Tar Heels. The last 22 touchdowns have now been scored by freshmen or sophomores. Coach Fedora says it has been exciting watching their growth and gives him confidence in the future of the program.

“It’s been fun to watch these guys grow up. […] They’re not just playing for us, they’re making plays for us. They’re making a lot of plays for us. That’s obviously exciting for the future,” Coach Fedora says.

Next up for the growing Tar Heels will be the regular season finale against the No. 24 Duke Blue Devils this Saturday at yes, yet again, high noon.


Going Bowling: Carolina Crushes Scoring Record, ODU, to Make Postseason

CHAPEL HILL—The Tar Heels improved to 6-5 and gained bowl eligibility with a school record 80 points  and an emphatic 80-20 victory over Old Dominion in front of the home crowd.

Carolina dominated play offensively throughout the contest, and the improving defense continuously flustered quarterback Tyler Heinicke. In short, UNC dominated in every facet of the game. All kinds of records were shattered including the most offensive yards ever by a Carolina football team.

The proceedings began with the Monarchs getting the ball first. Veteran quarterback Tyler Heinicke was flushed out of the pocket on a hurry by Tar Heel Travis Hughes.

Quarterback Marquise Williams threw a deep strike intended for receiver Quinshad Davis, but a pass interference was called on the Monarchs. And on the very next play, Davis was side open for an easy 56-yard touchdown catch, his ninth of the season, which jolted the Tar Heel crowd and put UNC up an early seven points with 13:53 in the first quarter still remaining.

Old Dominion responded with a 40-yard dash that gashed the Tar Heel defense. Heinicke was definitely feeling the pressure of the Carolina defensive linemen. But Monarch running back Johnson was picking up nice yardage.

Ultimately, the scoring drive resulted in a 37-yard field goal that got Old Dominion on the board with 11:43 left in the first quarter.

In a surprise tactic, ODU went for an onside kick and recovered. But they couldn’t capitalize as they fumbled it away soon after with a nice force by Jabari Price and Kareem Martin recovered for the Tar Heels.

From there, Carolina launched an offensive assault into Monarch territory with mixed play-calling. But a false start penalty on Russell Bodine set the Tar Heels back five yards.

A nice one-on-one tackle by Old Dominion on the third down forced a Tommy Hibbard punt.

On the ensuing drive, the Monarchs completed a huge pass play that was called back on an illegal formation penalty. A punt was forced by the Tar Heels from there as Heinicke had nowhere to go on third down.

Tre Boston muffed the punt return and Old Dominion recovered to set up a prime scoring opportunity for the Monarchs.

And this time, Old Dominion did take advantage of a huge Carolina miscue with a touchdown run by Colby Goodwyn that set the Monarchs ahead 10-7 with 5:43 in first quarter.

Quinshad Davis was at it again. This time, he opened the next series with a tightrope act up the sideline for 36 yards that set Carolina up for a scoring opportunity inside the Old Dominion 30-yard line.

And they cashed in as Williams threw a beautiful ball to TJ Thorpe in the side of the end zone. The score stood at 14-10 in favor of the Tar Heels with 5:05 on clock.

The scoring drives were coming quick for these two high-powered offenses. Old Dominion was next to have its crack at it. They wasted no time crossing the 50-yard line with crisp passing against a somewhat sluggish Tar Heel defense.

But Carolina was able to slow the Monarch attack down in the end. A 40-yard field goal punched through the uprights got the Monarchs to within a single point with 2:39 remaining in the first quarter.

TJ Thorpe shed some tackles and advanced the ball out past the 30-yard line on the punt return for Carolina. But an overthrown ball by Williams set up a third and long for the offense.

Bug Howard snagged a 15-yard pass to get the Carolina engine back running again. They slammed the ball on a T.J. Logan to the one-yard line as time expired on the first quarter.

After one quarter, UNC maintained a 214-167 edge it total yardage. ODU QB Heinicke was not living up to the hype with only 65 yards and completing only four passes on 13 attempts. Meanwhile, Tar Heel signal caller Marquise Williams was 10-13 for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Davis had already totaled 100 yards receiving.

The drive was capped off with a Logan score that vaulted the Tar Heels to a 21-13 lead just seconds into the second quarter.

Carolina shut down the Monarch offense on the next series to get the ball right back to the offense. Freshman Khris Francis saw his first carries in the next series as the Tar Heels moved into Monarch territory with a ground and pound approach.

A rare holding call on James Hurst didn’t slow down the Tar Heels. Williams hooked up with Ryan Switzer for a 43-yard touchdown strike. Carolina seized a 28-13 lead with 12:22 remaining in half.

The Tar Heel defense was beginning to find its form. The speed of play was up and gang tackling was back in force. They stopped the Monarchs and forced a punt with 9:05 on the clock.

Williams dashed ahead for a big run, and then followed that up with a 57-yard touchdown pass to Switzer. This one was turning into a rout. Mismatches were all over the field as UNC claimed a commanding 35-13 lead.

As usual, Martin was ever present in the backfield of Old Dominion. Heinicke wasn’t having any time to find his receivers. The Tar Heel defense was wreaking havoc. It was another punt for the Monarchs.

The following drive saw UNC methodically progress the ball down the field. TJ Logan polished off the 84-yard drive with his second touchdown of the day. Carolina led 42-13 with 2:26 left in the half.

Old Dominion went for it on fourth down, but failed to convert. Carolina now had the ball inside the Monarch 20-yard line. It was a prime opportunity for another score for the Tar Heels in a game that was getting out of hand.

Williams tied a school record with his fifth touchdown pass of the day. This one was to Kendrick Singleton. The 35 points in the second quarter tied the most points scored by any Carolina football team in a quarter.

At the half, Carolina had amassed 495 yards of total offense. Logan was the leading Tar Heel rusher with 54 yards and two touchdowns. Williams had thrown a record-tying 5 touchdown passes to go along with his 379 yards.

As for the receivers, Davis led the way with 124 yards and a touchdown. But he was closely followed by freshman standout Ryan Switzer with 111 yards and a pair of scores.

The Tar Heels picked up where they left off in the second half. Williams threw his sixth touchdown pass to earn a new school record. Khris Francis hauled the ball in to place Carolina in a 56-13 lead early in the third quarter.

Old Dominion broke loose for a huge gain down the field that had them inside Carolina’s five yard line. Could the Carolina defense hold them? Not on this occasion.

Marquel Thomas caught a two yard pass from Heinicke. With that score, Carolina’s lead was cut to 56-20 with 12:27 on the third quarter clock.

Lightning struck next for the Tar Heels. TJ Logan ran back a kick return for a touchdown. The 99-yard return was the third longest in UNC football history. UNC led 63-20.

The Tar Heels tied the school record for points scored in a game with a Thomas Moore field goal. Carolina owned a 66-20 lead with 9:44 in third quarter.

An electrifying 63-yard touchdown carry by TJ Logan broke the school record not too long after. The Tar Heels were up 73-20 with 5:33 left in third quarter.

Ryan Switzer did it again. He returned another punt for a touchdown. It was his fourth return in the last three games, and it put the Tar Heels up 80-20.

In a move none in the press box had seen before, the referees got mutual agreement between the two schools to play a 10 minute fourth quarter. It seemed like a bit of a mercy rule.

719 offensive yards gave UNC the school record for yardage in a single game. Nearly every offensive record went down in this game. Next up for the Tar Heels? Duke.


Breakin’ It Down: Old Dominion

Photo courtesy of GoHeels.com

Photo courtesy of GoHeels.com

Offense: Simply put, the Tar Heel offensive engine is humming right now. And a lot of that has to do with a rising youth movement that only gained momentum with a pair of Ryan Switzer punt returns last Saturday in Carolina’s 34-27 victory at Pittsburgh. Switzer is joined by fellow youngsters in tailbacks T.J. Logan and Khris Francis, as well as nifty receiver Bug Howard. With their rise, Carolina has an excellent stable of viable options for sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams to pick from. Williams has made a seamless transition into the starting role. He adds a dual threat to Offensive Coordinator Blake Anderson’s attack. Not to mention, he is seemingly a perfect fit for the Fedora-style warp-speed philosophy. Through the air, UNC is averaging 280 yards per outing, 27th best in the country. All-American candidate Eric Ebron is on everyone’s watch list. He is an extraordinary playmaker for the Tar Heels that will be coming to an NFL stadium near you in the near future. Even the offensive line is showing some timely improvement as they have handled some physical defensive fronts in recent weeks. All in all, it appears UNC’s offense is surging as the season winds to a close.

The Old Dominion Monarchs are led by a sensational signal caller Tyler Heinicke that has Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning making comparisons to New Orleans Saints Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees. That’s high praise. But Heinicke may be deserving. He has amassed 3,892 yards this season to go with his 32 touchdowns, and is throwing at an efficient 71.6 completion percentage. The wide receiver duo of Larry Pinkard and Antonio Vaughan have a knack for getting open and will test the Tar Heel secondary downfield. All year long, this Old Dominion team has been putting up plenty of points. They’re explosive.


Defense: The Tar Heels have seemingly found the formula for success on this end of the field. And a lot of this improvement has to be credited to Coach Vic’s relentless drive in practice and ability to adapt as the season progressed. He sensed his guys were struggling with all the schemes. So what did he do? He simplified. Now senior defensive end Kareem Martin says the Tar Heels have been freed up to really let loose and focus on playing with high energy and lots of passion. It seems to be working. The defense is playing faster and avoiding the dreaded ‘paralysis by analysis.’ Last week, the Tar Heels completely overwhelmed the Pitt offense in the first half, but the second half provided some struggles. Perhaps the energy level dipped a bit? That was suggested by a couple of the players at the press conference Monday. With Norkeithus Otis and Kareem Martin continuing to create havoc in opposing backfields, the Old Dominion passing attack may be forced into some less than desirable throws. And the hungry members of the secondary like Tre Boston and Dominique Green will be hungry to scarf up some interceptions.

The Old Dominion defense is a weak point. Monarch Head Coach Bobby Wilder said earlier this week he is extremely concerned with the speed of play and whether his defense can withstand the Carolina offensive weaponry. We will see soon enough. But here’s betting we could see some mismatches out there ay Kenan Stadium on Saturday in this category.

EDGE: Carolina

Intangibles: This category could be looked at through two different lenses. The first one gives a slight edge to Old Dominion. They have nothing to lose. It’s their final game of the year. They’re expected to lose. And they just so happen to have a heavy-weight gunslinger in their backfield that could silence the crowd early with a hot start. Also, some may surmise the Tar Heels are already looking ahead to their unexpected showdown with Duke next week. So edge goes to the Monarchs, right?

No way. Carolina is riding a wave of momentum with four straight wins. You don’t bet against the streak. The “1-0 each week” mantra is working wonders. Couple that with the fact that the Tar Heels play a pretty solid brand of football when at home in Chapel Hill. And let’s be honest, Old Dominion just got their FIRST EVER win against an FBS school last week. And who did they beat? Yes, Idaho. That hardly counts.

EDGE: Carolina


This contest should be entertaining for a while. Big plays will be aplenty. But I think the Tar Heel defensive pressure will begin to get to the ODU quarterback as the game wears long, forcing a couple errant throws that will hand Carolina the turnovers they need to pull away in the second half with an impressive offensive display against the overmatched Monarch defense.

QUICK PICK: Tar Heels 45, Monarchs 24


A Chat With the Head Monarch: ODU’s Coach Wilder

WCHL’s Matt Oakes had the chance to chat with Old Dominion Head Coach Bobby Wilder as his team prepares for its regular season finale against the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

The two talked about the Monarch transition to the FBS level, the superb play of quarterback Tyler Heinicke, and how his team stacks up with Carolina.

***Listen to the interview***

Coach Wilder


UNC Football: Overcoming Scars, Fatigue & ‘Drew Brees’-type QB

CHAPEL HILL– The 5-5 Tar Heels will face 8-3 Old Dominion in a fight for bowl eligibility Saturday at noon inside the cozy confines of Kenan Stadium.

With a win, Carolina would earn their first five-game winning streak since way back in 2001. But how have these embattled Tar Heels turned things around so quickly in a season that was deemed lost by most outside observers?

Head Coach Larry Fedora says a lot of the turnaround comes from players eliminating the mental lapses and realizing their roles on the team.

“I would say just eliminating mental mistakes and guys doing their job. Understanding what their job is and just doing their job, not trying to do any more or anything extra, just doing their job,” Coach Fedora says.

Sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams has made a seamless transition to the starting position. Coach Fedora credits Offensive Coordinator Blake Anderson and his teammates for the success.

“I think he’s really comfortable back there. I give Blake credit for preparing him throughout the year. Marquise did a nice job preparing himself every week knowing that he was going to go in the games and play in some situations and packages. The team, it really hasn’t mattered to them who’s back there. We haven’t changed anything, so they’ve done a really nice job with that,” Coach Fedora says.

ODU Quarterback Tyler Heinicke is a dynamic playmaker who distributes the ball to perfection to his receivers. Just ask Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning how he feels about him. Koenning says he compares him to a pretty successful NFL signal caller.

“He’s as good as there is. He’s Drew Brees good, if not better. He is fantastic. We don’t see too many bad decisions or bad balls. He’s as good as there is,” Coach Koenning says.

Coach Koenning says he sees a lot of similarities between the Monarch attack and the East Carolina offense Carolina failed to stop earlier in the season. Koenning says he’s hopeful the guys are able to overcome the “scar” of that game and get retribution.

“Anytime that you get spurned or get hurt, it scars you. You have that scar. We have that scar from that game. I hope our players learned from that and don’t want to go back to that. You never know. I think our guys are feeling some pressure and intensity. We know there’s a great offense coming in here,” Coach Koenning says.

This late in the season, Coach Koenning says the wear and tear of the season starts to build up on the guys. He says the key against Old Dominion will be whether the Tar Heels can summon the energy to play at the high speed necessary to take down the Monarchs.

“The ACC the last four games has been physical pounding. If our guys can get it up for another and play at the speed, you know. That’s going to be the key for us is if we can get up and play at that speed it’s going to take for us to win the game,” Coach Koenning says.

Will Carolina’s late season magic continue? We’ll find out Saturday.


Football Season Transitions to ‘Survival of the Fittest’

CHAPEL HILL– The Tar Heel football team isn’t taking Old Dominion lightly. Despite their rather low-profile place in the collegiate sports hierarchy, there is one player on the Monarch squad that reigns supreme.

ODU quarterback Tyler Heinicke threw for a Division I football record 730 yards last season against New Hampshire, and last week tallied 533 yards and four touchdowns.

Head Coach Larry Fedora says the guy is special.

“This cat is really good. He knows where to go with the ball. He’s not just standing back there patting it. He knows where he’s going. Their offensive line does a good job protecting him. He does a really good job of extending plays also,” Coach Fedora says.

Old Dominion’s offense looks eerily familiar to East Carolina. And we all remember that September debacle. The Tar Heel defense was completely shredded by the ECU attack in front of their demoralized home fans.

Coach Fedora says he reminded his players of that ugly memory earlier in the week.

“We talked about it on Sunday and haven’t talked about it since and probably won’t. Our guys understand what’s at stake. It’s all about learning from your lessons all the way through the season. That’s why we do our corrections on Sundays and talk about mistakes we’ve made, so we don’t make the same mistakes in the future,” Coach Fedora says.

We’re now into late November, and Coach Fedora says his guys are getting banged up. But he says there isn’t a team in the country whose depth chart isn’t thinning out this late in the season.

“We’re mid to late November. It’s football. It is what it is. We’d love to have a few more guys with us, but it’s just the way it is this time of year. I’d say probably everybody in the country is beat up. I can’t imagine a team that’s not. Guys have to take care of their bodies, and they got to try to survive it,” Coach Fedora says.

Speaking of injuries, offensive lineman Russell Bodine was shifted over to guard from his normal position at center for the Pittsburgh game due to team injuries. But Bodine says no matter where he lines up, the goal is simple this Saturday.

“It’s their [ODU] last game of the year. It will be a big game for them. We didn’t take ECU seriously a little bit, and we went out and got embarrassed. We can’t let that happen again and just go out and get a ‘W’,” Bodine says.



Coach Fedora Focus: Tar Heel Turnaround, Youth Movement & Monarchs

CHAPEL HILL– The Tar Heel football team is certainly riding high these days. The locker room is full of great camaraderie and the practice fields display focus and confidence. But that’s what a four-game winning streak can do.

Earlier in the season, Carolina was finding ways to lose games, but Coach Fedora says the chemistry of the team has changed, and he sees a greater level of trust among teammates that is translating into victories.

“A lot of it has to do with the chemistry of your football team. As this team has grown throughout the season and through all the adversity that we’ve overcome, you grow closer as a team. You start trusting each other a little bit more. You care more about each other because of all the work and effort you’re putting into it,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora says you can trace the dramatic momentum shift for his squad back to not a win, but the bitter Thursday night home loss to Miami.

“You go back to that Miami game when our guys played extremely hard, and their guts were ripped out from them. You sensed after that, they started finding ways to make those plays. I think it’s probably just giving a little bit more each and every play,” Coach Fedora says.

So is Coach Fedora motivating the Tar Heels this week with the bowl prize that awaits them with a win over Old Dominion? No way. He says he hasn’t talked about postseason eligibility up to this point, so he won’t be changing things up now.

“I haven’t talked about it the last four weeks, so I’m not going to talk about it now. These guys know what’s going on. They understand. But they know when they come in this building where our focus is going to be,” Coach Fedora says.

One of the scariest aspects of Saturday for Carolina will no doubt be the dynamic play of Monarch quarterback Taylor Heinicke. Coach Fedora says Heinicke is a smart signal caller who makes big plays happen.

“He is really headsy. He makes a lot of plays. We noticed that as an offensive staff watching cross-over film of the other teams. He can extend plays. He’s very knowledgeable. He’s completing over seventy percent of his passes. He makes something happen almost on every play,” Coach Fedora says.

The youth movement of these Tar Heels has been well documented in recent weeks, with 28 of Carolina’s 36 touchdowns being scored by freshmen or sophomores this season.

Coach Fedora believes a lot of the young guys are finally getting adjusted to the speed of the college game, and he says all the success is feeding their confidence.

“The speed of the game is different. In high school, you made this cut and went the distance. And now you make this cut, and you get four yards. That plays with your mind. Now I think they’re finally becoming comfortable. Now they’re all realizing they can make plays. They’re all fighting to get out there and make the next big play,” Coach Fedora says.

Who will be the next young Tar Heel to step up into the spotlight? We’ll find out this Saturday at high noon.



Can a 1-0 Team Make a Bowl Game? The Tar Heels Will Try

CHAPEL HILL– Here we go again. The recurring “1-0 each week” mantra was never more present than at Monday’s football press conference inside Kenan Football Center.

In fact, quarterback Marquise Williams says there is a lot of room for improvement, even after four straight wins. He points to the overall drop in energy level by the offense in the second half at Pittsburgh.

“I guess we were just one of those teams that just looked at it as, ‘Oh, we got this game, so we don’t have to worry about too much of nothing.’ In a football game, you have to play like it’s four quarters. We didn’t come out very excited in the second half. We didn’t move the ball very much. […] I just felt like we layed down in the second half,” Williams says.

Yes, the Tar Heels are at the doorstep of postseason qualification. But Williams says the team isn’t even allowing themselves to think ahead on a possible bowl trip.

“To be honest, we haven’t talked about a bowl game. The impression is just being 1-0 each week. That’s what we focus on. That’s what are main focus is going to be just focusing on getting this win this Saturday,” Williams says.

Williams was quick to point out that since Carolina really championed the 1-0 banner after the disappointing Thursday night Miami loss, the Tar Heels have yet to drop a game. Does Williams regret not claiming the slogan sooner? He says hindsight is 20/20, and Carolina can only control the here and now.

“It’s very difficult. We look back at some of the things we didn’t do right. But you can’t always blame it on this guy did this, this guy did that. It’s very difficult. It would be great to be going in and trying to play Duke. But unfortunately, we don’t have that chance, so we’re just going to focus on being 1-0,” Williams says.

Defensive end Kareem Martin was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week on the heels of his standout performance at Pittsburgh. Martin says he credits his marked improvement this season to hard work and blocking out all the surrounding noise.

“Just being more comfortable and more confident, and not worrying about what’s going on around me. Just playing as hard as I can, and realizing things are going to fall into place for me. I’ve been doing extra film study and working hard at practice. Things are starting to show up on the field for me,” Martin says.

Martin says he dedicated the game last Saturday to his mother. This week, he says he will be fighting to get to a bowl game in his senior Tar Heel campaign. And he says one of the keys against Old Dominion will be getting off to a flying start.

“I think we have to just get on them early. Hopefully the offense can strike on their first drive, or we can stop them on their first series. With a team like this that can throw the ball so well, they’re always in the game. We want to take their confidence early in the game, hop on them early, and continue to wear them down,” Martin says.